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The lean season is expected to begin earlier than normal across the region

  • Key Message Update
  • Southern Africa
  • May 2024
The lean season is expected to begin earlier than normal across the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The poor crop harvests in April and May limited seasonal improvements in food access and access to agricultural labor and other income-earning opportunities, constraining poor households purchasing capacity, particularly in southern parts of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique, maintaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in these areas. However, conflict is driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique but Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are also present in parts of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, where humanitarian assistance is ongoing. In surplus-producing areas of the region, household access to food and income is likely to improve slightly with the ongoing below-average harvests and diminishing stocks from the 2022/23 season. From June to September, an earlier-than-normal depletion of food stocks is expected, and households will increasingly engage in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in order to meet their food needs. However, the ongoing crop harvests in Madagascar are supporting household access to food and income through crop sales and labor for most poor households, resulting in widespread Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the Grand South and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in central and northern parts of the country.
    • Income from typical seasonal opportunities such as harvesting labor and crop sales are below normal due to the poor to failed harvests that were impacted by the El Niño-induced drought across the region. However, heavy rainfall and flooding disrupted agricultural activities and livelihoods in some parts of DRC. In general, poor households in southern Africa are intensifying their engagement in other off-farm income-earning opportunities such as petty trade, firewood sales, and self-employment activities, which are providing below-normal incomes due to the high competition, low demand, and poor liquidity among better-off households. In Malawi and Zimbabwe, poor households are increasing their engagement in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) earlier than normal, which can lead to the erosion of livelihood assets and further negatively impact the capacity of poor households to cope with future shocks.
    • Staple cereal grain prices have remained atypically high during the post-harvest period, particularly in Zimbabwe, due to the below-average harvest and market supply as households prioritize harvested grain for their own consumption. Prices of staple grains such as maize, sorghum, and millets, are likely to remain higher than last year in the post-harvest period due to increased demand and lower-than-normal market supply. However, there was temporary price stability and seasonal price declines in parts of Mozambique and Malawi due to the availability of below-average harvests on the market. However, grain prices are fluctuating above the five-year average, which negatively impacts the purchasing capacity of poor households relying on market purchases earlier than normal. 
    • The macroeconomic situation remains varied across the region. In the DRC the depreciation of the local currency continues to exacerbate prices, with around a 5 percent annual inflation. Additionally, high fuel prices continue to drive up the cost of transport, goods, and services. In Malawi, the macroeconomic situation slightly improved, with the Kwacha stabilizing against the USD as the foreign currency reserves rose to an equivalent of 2.4 months of import cover in May, attributed to increased income from tobacco sales. This is expected to stabilize food and non-food prices and potentially improve household purchasing capacity.  However, the annual inflation rate for Malawi remains high, around 32 percent in April. In Zimbabwe, there has been relative stability in exchange rates and local currency prices following the introduction of the Zimbabwe Gold (ZWG), the newest Zimbabwean currency. However, USD prices in Zimbabwe remain stable but higher than normal due to high transportation costs and limited availability of the ZWG for change. The high USD prices continue to constrain household purchasing capacity for many poor households, particularly in urban areas.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Southern Africa Key Message Update May 2024: The lean season is expected to begin earlier than normal across the region, 2024.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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